Morris' Cotton - 75 U.S. 507 (1869)
U.S. Supreme Court
Morris' Cotton, 75 U.S. 8 Wall. 507 507 (1869)
75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 507
1. Where a seizure of property on land is made under the Acts of July 13, 1861, or of August 6, 1861, or July 17, 1862, passed in suppression of the rebellion, the claimants are entitled to trial by jury, though the suit be in form a libel of information, and the suit can be removed into this Court by writ of error alone. Union Insurance Company v. United States, 6 Wall. 765, and Armstrong's Foundry, 6 Wall. 769, affirmed.
2. This Court will, however, assume jurisdiction on appeal for the purpose of reversing a decree rendered by an inferior court not having jurisdiction to proceed in the way in which it has proceeded, and of vacating any unwarranted proceedings of it which stand in the way of a new trial there in a case where, in the judgment of this Court, a new trial ought to be granted. And it will in such cases either reverse the judgment or decree and direct the proceedings to be dismissed or remand the cause with directions to allow the pleadings to be amended and to grant a new trial according to law. And if the subject in controversy be a fund lately in the registry oŁ the court, but which has been distributed, so that a new trial would be useless unless the fund was restored to the registry where it was before the decree of distribution was executed,
it will direct that a writ of restitution issue to the proper parties to restore the fund to the registry.
Three Acts of Congress, one of July 13, 1861, another of August 6, 1861, and a third of July 17, 1862, passed during the late rebellion, authorized the seizure and confiscation in the district or circuit courts of property used for insurrectionary purposes, and to a certain extent prescribed the mode of proceeding.
Under one of these acts it was decided, in the Union Insurance Company v. United States and in Armstrong's Foundry, [Footnote 1] that while proceedings for the condemnation of property or land might be shaped in the form and modes analogous to those used in admiralty, yet that issues of fact must, on the demand of either party, be tried by jury, and that while, where a proceeding under that act to enforce the forfeiture of real estate had been carried on in conformity with the practice of courts of admiralty, this Court would take jurisdiction of the decree on appeal, yet that it would do so only for the purpose of reversing the decree and directing a new trial, with proceedings conformed in respect to trial by jury and exceptions to evidence to the course of proceeding by information on the common law side of the court in cases of seizure upon lands.
The three acts above mentioned being in force and in an action purporting to be in conformity to them, the United States filed an information in rem against certain cotton (Morris claimant) alleged to have been seized on land and forfeited to the United States under the statutes above referred to. The information was tried in the district court as a suit in admiralty. The claimant prayed for a jury, but his prayer was denied. A decree of forfeiture having passed against the cotton, the case was brought by the claimant before this Court from the district court by appeal, and not by writ of error.